The name Roger Staubach brings back fond memories of Dallas Cowboys lore. "Roger the Dodger" guided the Cowboys to four NFC titles and two Super Bowl wins. He was a four-time NFL passing leader and retired with an 83.4 passer rating -- an NFL best when he decided to hang up the cleats. Staubach made the Pro Bowl six times and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985. He's truly an NFL legend, but what makes Staubach special is some of the other facets of his life. Even if he never played a down of professional football, Staubach would still be a legend.
Staubach was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and Navy quarterback. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1963, and also served a tour in Vietnam before beginning his NFL career. Staubach has played in some pretty big games, but the battles on the gridiron against Army are something he still considers a major highlight of his football career. This Saturday will mark meeting No. 121 between these two teams, and Staubach recently spoke with CBS Sports about what it felt like to take part in one of the best rivalries in sports.
"You know, the '62 game was the first one I started," Staubach said. "I was a youngster at Navy and President Kennedy was at the game and did the coin toss and I was just a nervous wreck getting ready. But once the game started, I was really into it. I ran for two touchdowns and I threw for two. It was my first Army-Navy game and oh man, what a good win it was. Then we came into the locker room and there was President Kennedy -- I'll just never forget it."
Less than a year later, on Nov. 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Just four days after this unforgettable day in American history, Staubach was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Tradition stated that the military observe a 30-day period of mourning, but it was later decided that the Army-Navy game would be delayed just one week and played on Dec. 7. Since Kennedy was a big fan of football and had enjoyed this rivalry in person just one year earlier, the event had a unique atmosphere -- one of both mourning and then excitement. Navy went on to win 21-15 amidst a chaotic finish.
"In '63, we played the game on behalf of the Kennedy family," said Staubach. "We were the No. 2 team in the country because Texas was undefeated. We were 8-1 when we played Army, and we beat them 21-15. Those two games, 1962 and 1963 were the best to me."
Staubach has recently partnered with USAA to launch the "Army-Navy House" sweepstakes. Fans can upload a photo that shows off their fandom or their favorite Army-Navy memory, and one lucky winner for each side will be awarded a trip to the 2021 Army-Navy Game in New York, courtesy of USAA. Additionally, 1,000 fans for each Academy will receive a commemorative ticket.
"It's a pretty neat deal," Staubach said of the new initiative. "I wish they would have had something like this back when I was there."
Staubach's NFL career got off to a very late start. He was ineligible to play until 1969 due to his four-year military commitment, which made him a 27-year-old rookie. The 1970 season was a dramatic one, as Cowboys head coach Tom Landry decided to alternate between having Staubach and then Craig Morton under center. Dallas made it to Super Bowl V that season, but Landry went with Morton as the starter in the big game. The following season, however, Staubach finally earned the starting role -- and it quickly became evident late in the season that having him under center full time was a good thing for the franchise.
In 1971, Staubach won all 10 games he started, and threw for 1,882 yards, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Additionally, he also rushed for what would be a career-high 343 yards and two more touchdowns. The 11-3 Cowboys made it back to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the Miami Dolphins by a score of 24-3. Staubach threw two touchdowns in the win, including one to tight end Mike Ditka, and became the first player in history to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP. It would be the first of two Super Bowls Staubach would win in a career that resulted in an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
As you would imagine, Staubach is still as big of a Cowboys fan as ever, and he was very upset that he struck out this past week while rooting for both the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers against NFC East rivals.
"I was pulling for the Steelers on Monday. And I'm thinking, 'Man, I don't want to pull for the Steelers,'" Staubach said with a laugh.
While the NFC East is wide open, the Cowboys have the slimmest chance among the four teams of earning a postseason berth. They reside at the bottom of the division with a 3-9 record, as nothing has gone right for this team in 2020. They lost star quarterback Dak Prescott early on, the offensive line has been devastated by injuries and the defense currently allows the ninth-most yards per game. Staubach believes that the global pandemic has been a reason the Cowboys have struggled to find consistency on the field, and that it really has thrown off everyone's rhythm.
"I think that the virus is really a disaster," said Staubach when asked about the Cowboys' struggles. "It's a world event to have people losing their lives and so they have to be careful and cautious being out on the football field and practicing. It's been a weird year as far as the normal routine."
Apart from the virus, losing Prescott to his ankle injury in Week 5 was without a doubt the biggest hit to the Cowboys' 2020 campaign. Staubach calls himself a "Dak fan," and appreciates the kind of player he is on the field, but more importantly likes the kind of leader he is.
Many Cowboys fans have already shifted their focus to this offseason, which is fair considering the big decisions that loom. The No. 1 issue Dallas will face in the coming months is another round of contract talks with their starting quarterback. Prescott entered the 2020 season on a $31.4 million franchise tag after the former fourth-round pick and the Cowboys again failed to come to terms on a multiyear deal, making it his second consecutive contract year with the club. As Patrik Walker of CBS Sports notes, the current state of affairs regarding Prescott's health has "absolutely not" deterred the team from their goal of revisiting talks as soon as the regular season is over. Staubach certainly hopes the two sides can agree to a long-term extension soon.
"I hope that they get him signed and that he wants to stay here in Dallas," Staubach said. "I don't know if Dak would give up leaving the Dallas Cowboys for the money at the end of the day. I'm not involved in it, I just know that they'll miss him if we don't -- there's just not many quarterbacks around that have Dak's ability. And what I like is that the players really like him. He's their leader plus he's a heck of a football player. The games he played in this season he really did well. I sure hope they sign him to a long-term contract."
It's interesting that Staubach brings up the issue of money, because it's certainly a topic those who have been following this situation have been trying to figure out as well. Walker penned a piece earlier this week about how the Cowboys' looming talks with Prescott could be helped by a rumored cap boost.
Staubach also discussed the current state of the NFL and the evolution of the dual-threat quarterback. The speed of players like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and even Cam Newton have created entirely new facets for their offenses, which is something Staubach is a little familiar with.
"I think if we ran a 40-yard dash they would beat me," Staubach said with a laugh. "But I was good at dodging."
"Roger the Dodger" was known for his miraculous escapes in the pocket and his ability to get out of sticky situations that not many other quarterbacks could. His athleticism certainly aided the Cowboys -- even if it didn't always jive with what coach Landry wanted.
"There's quite a few that are really taking advantage of running," Staubach said. "Quarterbacks are moving around a lot more. In the old days, I was one of the fewer runners. If it was third-and-7 and I thought I could run for the first down, that's what I did. I believe that it's a real asset a quarterback can have.
"But again, I did run a lot and I was proud of it. Coach Landry would say, 'Oh, you're going to learn some day,' and that was after almost every game. We'd be watching the film and for 11 years he would say that. In my 11th year I finally said, 'Hey coach I'm probably going to retire real soon.' He wasn't crazy about my running but he put up with me."
Prescott is more of a scrambler than a true dual-threat quarterback, but Staubach certainly believes he's the future of the Cowboys' franchise. Perhaps another version of "Captain America" who can lead "America's Team" to the promised land.